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Events and Life Mindsets Travel and places

Finally home in Israel where we belong

Facebook’s well meaning year end round-up isn’t appealing to everyone. It is supposed to present an upbeat summary of a positive 2014 but 2014 wasn’t a positive year for many people. It was a terrible year for me in many respects and were it not for my family and where we have wound up, 2014 would be ending on a particularly sour note for me.

Flying into Tel Aviv

Thankfully, 2014 is going to come to a close on a pretty good note because our family made a big change to our lives, we left South Africa to create a new life in Israel. My wife and I made the decision in early August 2014 after I returned to South Africa from a short visit to Israel in late July to visit family. It was my first visit to Israel and it transformed how I perceived and felt about this tiny country.

My plan, before we left, was to write about our experiences as Olim Hadashim (new immigrants) but, now that we are here, I’m at a bit of a loss what to write. We had a few hopes about what Israel would be like and, although we are still in a sort of honeymoon phase of our Aliyah process, life here is even better than I hoped it would be. I think it will continue to amaze me even when we are in a daily routine of work and day to day stresses.

A local playground

Life here is profoundly different in a pretty subtle way. I feel an underlying sense of belonging here that was simply missing in South Africa. That probably has to do with a combination of my feelings about living in South Africa as well as the environment we found ourselves in but, here, it is different in an important way. We’re only at the beginning of our journey to integrating fully into Israeli society. We’re still learning Hebrew; still looking for work; processing basic admin necessary to function effectively here and figuring out the bus routes. Despite that, we are already Israeli and don’t have to justify our presence here even though we have only been here for just under two weeks.

I think another reason I feel at a bit of a loss what to write about our transition is that I don’t want to fall into the trap of criticising South Africa now that we no longer have to deal with the factors that made life in SA uncomfortable. My mother said something to me when we were planning our move that has stuck with me. She said (and I’ll paraphrase a bit) “Don’t start attacking South Africa when you leave. South Africa gave you a lot in the time you lived here.” I think that is absolutely correct. South Africa ultimately became a country that we weren’t welcome in but it sustained me and my family for decades and there are many things about it I will miss going forward. Of course there are aspects of South Africa I won’t miss but what good does it do focusing on negative things?

Tel Aviv highway

We’re at the beginning of a challenging journey and making the move here, to Israel, was one of the best things we have done. Israel has welcomed us and our family has already begun to benefit from being here in ways we hoped it may. I don’t think of myself as South African anymore (well, for starters, I’m not – South African law stripped me of my citizenship when I became an Israeli citizen). I’m a learner Israeli, but an Israeli and I am really glad that we are finally home where we belong.

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Events and Life Mindsets

Trapani, time and transitions

Gina Trapani spoke at the XOXO Festival recently and I finally watched her talk. I’ve followed Trapani for years now and when she mentioned that she spoke at the festival (hadn’t heard of it before) on an episode of This Week in Google, I made a mental note to watch the video.

She talks about 3 significant stories in her life starting with 9/11 and ending with her marriage and daughter’s birth shared online and how her Web app, Thinkup, helps her track her digital activity and be more mindful of how meaningful it is.

Trapani’s talk reminded me of a few things I’ve been thinking about lately and I wrote down a couple things she said in her talk which really appealed to me. I’m going through quite a bit change in my life (along with my family) at the moment and it feels like we’re in between our old life and a new one, in a sort of limbo. For someone not particularly comfortable with transitions (especially not the huge life changes we’re going through at the moment), this is a challenging time for me.

I find myself throwing out loads of old baggage (literally) and, at the same time, holding on to little memories and mementos I’m not quite sure what to do with.

Trapani spoke about how she started documenting everything in her life after 9/11. I capture so much of my life and my family’s life. I capture all those weird art projects our kids bring home (I take photos when they arrive and store them, along with everything else, in Evernote). One of the reasons I am so passionate about my photography is because it is a way for me to document our lives so we have a rich record of it for our future selves and future generations. I’m practically obsessed with scanning documentation and storing it, both for work and just to build that archive of our lives. I even scanned half a dozen Moleskine journals before shredding the originals while we were packing up our home and my office.

In the midst of all of that, I feel a little adrift between our old life when I worked to remain relevant in a changing environment and to support my family and the new life where we will begin again in a new country and where I’m not too sure what I’ll do to earn a living and grow further in the months and years to come. I find these transitions unsettling and difficult to plan for. One of Trapani’s quotes that stood out for me was this one:

Somehow, somewhere your worst moments will power your best work

I don’t see my current challenges as my worst moments by any stretch of my imagination and yet this idea still resonates with me. I’m excited about our new life and I know this limbo will end soon. I also know I can’t remain tethered to our old life if I am going to embrace our new life and create something fresh. Not letting go means that our new life could become a shadow of the old and a missed opportunity to create something better and more meaningful.

I’m still working on that “letting go” bit and figuring out where the balance is between letting go and forgetting.